“Coming right up. How’s the record store business these days.”

“Pretty ruthless, Joe. If I’m not trying to come up with new sales campaigns for the latest release for, say, Sting or Shania Twain, I’m sweating bullets over file-sharing. I swear, those song-traders are going to run me out of business.”

“Is that so?”

“Oh, sure. After all, if they can grab the latest songs by Travis, Jet, or Dillinger Escape Plan off of the Net for free, why are they going to come into my store and buy them from me.”

“You know, Hilary Rosen used to come in here quite often and bitch about that very same thing. It’s that bad, eh?”

“You better believe it, Joe. Though, confidentially, I think it works both ways. Either a kid won’t buy the CD because he can get it for free on the Net, or he downloads one track off of the Net, realizes it sucks, and refuses to buy the CD.”

“Either way you lose, uh?”

“You said it, Joe. Plus, the labels aren’t helping me out at all by licensing their music to these online services like Rhapsody, iTunes or Napster. I mean, why get dressed to come into my store when you can sit behind your computer in your underwear and buy and download CDs by Korn or Dada? I’m afraid the traditional record store is about to go the way of the radio disc jockey who picked his own music.”

“Oh, come on now. It can’t be that bad.”

“Oh, yeah? Check this out. Not only do I have to compete with big merchandise stores that can afford to undercut my prices on new CDs by Michelle Branch and Jordan Knight. Not only do I have to compete with legal, online music sources like Buymusic.com and MusicMatch, but I also have to put up with part-time help that can’t tell the difference between Simon & Garfunkel, let alone sell a CD by Alabama, Dream Theater or Yanni.”

“Sounds to me as if you have a failure to communicate.”

“Big time, Joe. For example. This week was supposed to be a big sales week, what with both the Beatles’ CD and Britney Spears’ new release coming out on the same day. So I told the kid to prepare two big signs, with a big blow-up of Britney’s CD on one sign, and the Beatles’ CD on the other. You can probably guess what happened.”

“Don’t tell me. He mixed up the signs.”

“Oh, did he ever. All day long customers came in looking for the new version of Let It Be, and then leaving because they couldn’t find it, not realizing that the sign was mislabeled.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Yeah, me too. But on the other hand, I sold a helluva lot of Britney CDs.”

“Funny how things turn out. Want another beer?”

“Sure, Joe, but I’m a little short of cash. Can you trust me until next week? I’m afraid that I’m going to have to hand out more than a few refunds once my customers learn that the signs should have read Beatles – Naked! and Britney – In The Zone, and… well, not the other way around.”